The first real cold has hit and I am putting ginger in my tea for that extra wall-tightening glow in the stomach.
Grated fresh ginger, brewed with some ceylon leaves and milk: a lovely way to warm up a morning, or a wintery mood-dip in the afternoon.
Hot, delicious, an ancient root of suffusive goodness and fiery health, ginger (zingiber officinale) has long been very popular here in Asia for various ailments and health conditions – it is practically a medicine. You might even say that there has been an actual ‘shoga boom’ in Japan recently: while pickled red ginger has always been a condiment for sushi, and fresh ginger often served with grilled pork, currently, a lot of shoga sweets, beverages and various other powders and medicines have been hitting the market here: the rhizome is seen as something of a cure-all – and it is my kind of panacea.
In terms of perfume, the essential oil of ginger is usually deemed a masculine colour in the perfumer’s palette, and thus occasionally crops up in the top notes of spicy men’s fragrances such as Gucci’s brooding, loaded (and now discontinued) Envy for men, which has a gorgeously gingery top accord. It does not feature in its own leading role as often as it might, but there are exceptions, and if you love the smell and sensation of ginger, please read on.
People after a very literal-minded ginger fix should perhaps turn, as their first port of call, to Demeter, masters of gratifying one-note cravings. They will sort you out temporarily with their Gingerbread, Fresh Ginger, and even Ginger Sushi ‘feel-good fragrances’, but like Ginger Ale (see below), the impression usually only lasts a short while before you have nothing on your wrist (this is, after all, the idea with Demeter – they are only meant as ‘pick me up’ scents). There is an aspect of Scratch N’ Sniff.
For a more interpreted, fresher form of the root, Ginger Essence by Origins is a pleasantly convincing fragrance (citric, floral, very clean and American) that features ginger in a more gentle and feminine role, while other more lasting, gourmand spice scents have very pleasing prominent gingerbread notes, such as the 1926 winter classic Bois des Isles (Chanel) and its male offshoot Egoïste, although the main player in these two is undoubtedly more the balmy, floral sandalwood that lies beneath.
But on with the ginger…
FIVE O CLOCK AU GINGEMBRE / SERGE LUTENS (2008)
Serge Lutens finally left the caravanserai of the orient for English tea at the Ritz with this fragrance; an imaginary afternoon of cakes, tea, and crystallized ginger among the cafe clatter and bonhomie of those reposing and catching up away from the cold. The result is very pleasing – some orange peel here, some Earl Grey there – and a very cosy perfume that is nice to dab on in winter. As six o clock approaches though, it gets a touch less interesting, with a generic spicy warmth in the nineties manner, and focuses more on the drabness of the washers-up out in the darkening kitchens.
GINGER ALE / DEMETER (1997)
The smell of ginger ale always reminds me of my grandparents coming round on a Sunday evening and the standard request for a ‘whisky and dry’ – the dry rasping bubbles of ginger ale carbons popping from the glass. This smells identical to that first pouring in of Schweppes; then fades away to a nondescript note as though you had spilled some ginger ale on your skin while fixing that second or third whisky.
POUR HOMME/ VERSACE (1984)
A brief tale of ginger and ‘missed opportunity’ from my youth……….
In the summer of 1989, I was playing keyboards for The Fanatics, a local Solihull band who later changed their name to Ocean Colour Scene and achieved great success in the early nineties in the UK and elsewhere ( I even find their songs, tauntingly, at karaoke in Japan……)
They all became millionaires. I wasn’t allowed to stay with them (university- I had wanted a year out to just see how it went), but for a while it was fun anyway, and I got to go to all the parties and meet some famous pop stars. At one, a post-gig thing, I was in quiet conversation with Ruben, boyfriend of the bassist’s-girlfriend’s-sister, a long-haired youth who was gentle, and handsome as a drawing by his namesake, and who was emanating, discreetly, the classic Versace L’Homme from his skin.
In fact we were in the middle of talking about this scent, him passionately trying to convince me it was the greatest men’s scent ever made, when my head was suddenly punched against the wall from behind, cutting me just above the eye. I had no idea what had hit me, but in fact it was Duncan in an uncharacteristically jealous rage (perhaps I had been more entranced than I realized). Seconds later he had been thrown onto the pounding dancefloor and was being kicked by me as the blood flowed. The group’s bouncers immediately came to break up the lovers’ scrap and we were thrown out in disgrace, me crying in the taxi all the way back home.
Ruben wasn’t my type anyway, beautiful though he was, and I wouldn’t have worn his scent myself, but I have to admit that he did smell wonderful, because the original Versace, in my view, is something of a masterpiece (this may seem like a contradiction in terms given how crass the house’s perfumes are now, but in the eighties Versace did actually use do some nice fragrances: does anyone remember the sultry Milanese jasmine that was V’è? )
There really is nothing Pour L’Homme, in its original incarnation, it was smooth, complex, spicy, citric, creamy, fresh and sexy, with a beautiful and vivid top note of ginger that shone right through the formula to become its focus. Seductive, yes, but classy – just about – and irresistible.
I wish there were more masculines in this vein; forthright, yet elegant, complex enhancements of male beauty.
RICCI CLUB/ NINA RICCI (1989)
Long disappeared from Ricci counters, this very special scent can still easily be found online.
My friend Owen and I used to call this perfume Love instead because in fact to us that’s what it smelled like. We both had bottles, possibly as Christmas presents from our parents I think, but he wore it better than me, living in it for a year or two and smelling excellent: a warm, citrusy, very huggable cologne with a gorgeously fresh ray of ginger shining through the whole like a sunny day in October. It is a masculine of its era, very ‘trustworthy male in adorable woollen sweater’, but definitely worth seeking if you are searching for a well judged, temperate, but big-hearted, ginger.
GINGER MUSK / MONTALE (2006)
I love many a Montale perfume and could wear practically everything in their lineup, but a lot of the scents, while beautifully crafted, perhaps lack innovation.
Ginger Musk is different. It has that shock of the new, a smell that you didn’t know you wanted to exist until you actually smelled it: an adorably feminine and sexy combination of aerial musks, dreamy fruit and a fresh-floral ginger that scintillates beckoningly with an abundance of freshly washed, long-flowing hair.
Hard to find but worth seeking out.
UN CRIME EXOTIQUE / PARFUMERIE GENERALE (2007)
La piece de resistance. It is obvious that the creator of this perfume (Pierre Guillaume) was having a lot of fun with dabbling in his wintery concoctions when the results are as startling as this.
The ‘exotic crime’ in question is perhaps the ultimate spiced ginger: a pungent globe of medicinal spices, cinnamon sticks and baked apple sweetbreads like some heart-lulling medieval Christmas wine. It is quite wonderful – there is nothing richer, and you may laugh each time with the audacity of it all each time you apply.
A wonderful choice for the coming holiday season.
If you know of any other great ginger scents I am missing here, please let me know!
19 responses to “GINGER!!!!! Five O’Clock Au Gingembre by Serge Lutens (2008) + Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale (2007) + Ginger Ale by Demeter (1997) + Ginger Musk by Montale (2006)+ Versace Pour L’Homme (1984) + Ricci Club by Nina Ricci (1989)”
You’ve just reminded me of ‘Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’…haha. Fascinating review. Love it. There’s a ‘Ginger and Indian Orchid’ scent by Bath House that I’m quite partial to, and in the Spikenard ‘perfume-smelling-into-drawing-and-performance workshop’ I did about 18 months ago now, one of the artists described this scent as smelling like ‘school corridors, chewing gum and rubber-soled plimsolls’ which does sum it up well. The Spikenard workshop was totally inspired by your facebook postings about perfume – I credited you as my inspiration in the blog about the workshop and have recently added your Black Narcissus bloglink to this too btw. Ginger is a funny scent. I adore it and frequently rub ginger essential oil with a mixture of Basil, Ylang Ylang and others into my kitchen table when I am sitting down for any kind of written work. It’s a wonderfully uplifting scent, also slightly psychedelic – like an intensely colourful, busy and sharp dream – but it has another side I’m quite wary of, as it does provoke sudden anger, passion and hotheadedness. It makes me think of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet a little, and I love this but I sometimes temper it with its opposite – nutmeg oil – when I’m working. I’m not mad on nutmeg oil sometimes – am I right in thinking you’re not a fan either? Was I talking to you about this? – but it does balance the extremes of ginger sometimes. I also find ginger totally addictive -put huge chunks of it in pasta sauces – and at this time of year, my speciality drink is hot chocolate with tons of powdered ginger in, but I can never have just one cup at a time, always three in a row at least! This drink takes me to a particular era when I shared an artists’ studio in a portacabin in the kids’ school, with a woman called Pam. But that’s a story for another time. x
Your comments are fascinating, Nina, and I love the idea of nutmeg and ginger somehow being opposites (how exactly? Is nutmeg more distant and cold despite its spiciness?). I actually do adore nutmeg though, more than cinnamon and possibly even ginger. I will do a nutmeg post soon, though it will be tiny..
> Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 13:14:09 +0000 > To: email@example.com >
I don’t know. I read it somewhere in a book years and years ago and I think it’s something astrological – mars ruling ginger and venus ruling nutmeg, or possibly the sun ruling ginger and the moon ruling nutmeg…wither way there’s supposed to be a masculinity ascribed to ginger and a femininity ascribed to nutmeg, so putting them together gives a kind of yin-yang balance. And it is quite potent and enegising. If you put a dab of nutmeg on one wrist and a dab of ginger on the other, they actually have a complementarity, but clear difference, and it’s quite a heady combination. I’ll try and work out where I read it – it might have been something connected to Culpepper actually.
The Elizabethans were well into it! In the second year at the old place we had to do a Shakespeare dissertation and I originally wanted to do it on flower and herblore in Shakespeare so read a few things on it, but I was home for the holidays and Ramsgate library had one little book on it so I didn’t get very far, and wanted more of a gendery thing anyway so ended up doing the dissertation on Elizabeth I and images of androgyny instead. Then years later I was working in Leeds library and had to sort all these old books out and there were tons of obscure, dusty tomes from the turn of the C20th specifically on herb, food and plant lore in Shakespeare! And being pregnant at the time I had to take a few breaks from the lifting and spent my frequent stops usefully reading a few. Anyway it appeared to be a massive underground fad of the late Victorians, fed up of pious literature and the tales of Walter Scott and determined to restore Mr S to his rightful place in the canon. And they did! It was all couched a little in a sorta Druidic Englishiana romanticism but the enthusiastic botanists certainly got his ‘beardic’ status back on the agenda. He may well have been a footnote in the canon by now had it not been for the plantlovers. Anyway lots of these books had astrological references for the herbs and spices in, and I did note them at some point, but this has all gone in the mists of time. This is probably where my nutmeg-ginger fact was gleaned thinking about it.
I love it.
Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus.
I loved the Versace segment where you were thrown out in disgraced and cried in the taxi all the way home. I have many perfumes in my collection but aside from the Jo Malone Nutmeg and Ginger from years ago, the only other ginger-based scent I have is Bulguri Blu (don’t remember if it was classified as a ginger scent but it always smelled like ginger to me). I have many Serge Lutens perfumes but do not own 5:0’clock Gingembre–somehow (although I was always aware of it) that one slipped by me).
I (foolishly, in my case) also bought Bulgari Blu Pour Homme for the ginger top note but I found I DESPISED the lacquered, harsh notes and especially the foul synthetic santal in the base. I should give away my bottle. I think the pour femme was somewhat better.
I should have mentioned Nutmeg and Ginger actually, although for me that is more about the nutmeg.
The body creme for that one is stunning.
I have a small sample vial (1 ml) of some perfume by Essence of Vali, labeled EOV, and while ginger is not one of the listed notes, I get ginger, ginger, ginger, and more ginger while wearing it. Link to their page is here if you want to look it up: http://essenceofvali.com/products/eov-eau-de-parfum (Please note, I am in no way affiliated with these people, and only have the sample because it was included in a trade.)
I am not sure how I would feel striding out of the house like a ginger nut, but it could smell quite striking I would imagine!
What an entertaining installment! I missed it the first time around, so I read everything with interest. I love fresh ginger, and I usually add it to my morning tea, and I enjoy using it as a cooking spice. It is warming and settles the stomach, too. In fragrance, however, I have found ginger notes somewhat masculine. I HATED Bulgari Blu. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one. Montale Ginger Musk sounds good to me. I can see ginger being ruled by Mars. Sharp and peppery notes are Martian ruled, traditionally. I love the old astrology/herbology lore.
Yes, and I love all that Nina wrote about it here.
Ultimately, I also prefer to eat rather than wear ginger , but it does have that lovely aspect of a talismanic armort: a healthful, ancient,l shield surrounding you that I like sometimes. An extraordinarily benevolent fire.
I love that image: an extraordinarily benevolent shield of fire.
Like Lily I have become rather accustomed to taking ginger in the morning, normally in warm water with lemon, I’m never entirely sure why, something an acupuncturist recommended once I think.
The prominent ginger note that I recall is Must de Cartier Pour Homme, a rather unusual spicy male, which must be why the almost always anodyne Cartier have discontinued it!
The Perfumed Dandy
There is a hallowed netherworld of discontinued perfumes. Basically, if it is from a certain period and has been discontinued, I am starting to think it must mean something, ie. that it was too interesting, or unconforming, to live and so had to be got rid of. I LOVE the original Must, and wish I had also smelled the men’s one properly as well.
I too like the original Must… a review will follow soon, for me it is a fragrance of quirky comfort.
I’d say the men’s version was less part of a genre than the original and it hung on until very recently too.
I’m with you… interesting, more than 10-15 years old, not Guerlain, Caron or Chanel, not a huge seller = discontinued.
How very sad.
The Perfumed Dandy
I will take Pacifica’s Tibetan Mountain Temple for my ginger fix.
YES I love that one, actually. Still have the solid….